President calls for bipartisan action on immigration and prison reform

FILE - In this Feb. 28, 2017, photo, President Donald Trump, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, for his address to a joint session of Congress. No natural orator, Trump has nonetheless shown at times that he can deliver a powerful speech that effectively outlines his vision, strikes an emotional chord and moves commentators to declare that he, at last, looks presidential. And then the teleprompter gets turned off. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool Image via AP, File)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – President Donald Trump focused much of his first State of Union address on immigration issues.  He urged both Republicans and Democrats to come together to support his plan.

There has been agreement among some Democrats and Republicans: they don’t like the President’s plan. Some Republicans oppose Trump’s call for a path to citizenship for DACA recipients. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the President’s plan offensive.

“The President presents himself as generous towards dreamers, but he is holding them hostage to the most extreme anti-immigrant agenda in generations,” Pelosi said.

Tyler Norris, a Republican political consultant, called the President’s plan a big game changer. “It allows 1.8 million people to have a pathway to citizenship between 10 and 12 years from now, and all they’re asking for is $25 billion to build the wall and have more border security,” Norris said in an interview on KXAN’s State of Texas.

“I think there’s a compromise to be found, but unfortunately there’s enough not to like for both sides to make this an iffy deal in the Senate,” Norris added.

Ed Espinoza, executive director at Progress Texas, said Democrats want a clean process where they vote on DACA first, before the other pillars of the President’s plan.

“I think we all want some sort of bipartisan support in government in general,” Espinoza said. “Let’s do them separately and not hold these people as a bargaining chip.”

The President said he wants to end what he calls chain migration, putting limits on the number of family members a legal immigrant can sponsor. Espinoza said that would be detrimental because not all immigrants have a traditional family.

“Another name for chain migration, by the way, is family migration,” Espinoza said. “Sometimes it’s aunts and uncles, particularly if they are refugees or if they are people from circumstances where their nuclear family isn’t the same anymore.”

Trump laid out several proposals beyond immigration during his State of the Union address. He surprised some people by making a pitch for prison reform and programs to help former inmates find jobs.

Derek Cohen, the director of the Center for Effective Justice and Right on Crime at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, said people need to get over the preconception that prison reform is only a liberal issue.

“We’ve been doing it at a bipartisan basis here in Texas for at least 10 years,” Cohen said. He pointed to work on prison reform during the 2007 session led by Democratic Sen. John Whitmire and Republican house member Jerry Madden. Cohen hopes Texas can lead the way for future reforms.

“This is an issue of people that are coming out of prison regardless,” Cohen said. “Are we doing all we can to make sure that they’re not a part of the frequent flyer club and end up back there later?”

“This is going to be an issue moving forward,” Cohen said. “It’s going to be high priority and it’s going to be soon.”

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